EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Islanders were pushed
to the limit to earn the final playoff spot in the Eastern
The Islanders earned the two points they needed to qualify for the playoffs with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Devils. But it wasn't easy. New York could taste a regulation win before John Madden's goal with nine-tenths of a second remaining in the third period knotted the game. It was the first game-tying goal at 19:59 of the third period in the NHL this season. Elias Says
The Islanders needed a 3-2 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils on Sunday to complete a sweep of their final four games and
earn a first-round showdown with the top-seeded Buffalo Sabres.
"We didn't lose any hope," Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt
said. "We could've easily said, 'Oh, it's not meant to be.' But
guys battled hard in overtime and got us out in the shootout."
The win triggered a wild on-ice celebration by the Islanders,
seemingly out of the Stanley Cup hunt one week ago. They regrouped
in front of third-string goalie Wade Dubielewicz to edge the
Toronto Maple Leafs for the last playoff berth on the final day of
the regular season.
Toronto finished its season Saturday night with a 6-5 win over
the Montreal Canadiens. The Maple Leafs had 91 points, one more
than the Islanders.
The Islanders mission was simple: win, and they were in the
Despite squandering a 2-0 lead in the third period, the
Islanders beat the Devils in the shootout. Miroslav Satan and
Viktor Kozlov, the first two shooters, scored for New York and
send the Islanders into the postseason.
Once again, Dubielewicz was the hero. The 28-year-old goalie,
playing in only his 17th NHL game, improved his record to 4-1 since
being called up from the minors on March 27. The Islanders turned
to him out of desperation when Mike Dunham struggled after
replacing Rick DiPietro, who was sidelined for the final seven
games with a concussion.
In regulation, the Islanders got two goals by Richard Park.
Dubielewicz made 22 saves through regulation and overtime before
making the two crucial stops in the shootout.
The Islanders caught a break when the Devils rested ironman
goalie Martin Brodeur, 6-1 against the Islanders with three
shutouts this season. Scott Clemmensen got the call, making only
his fourth start of the season.
Devils general manager and coach Lou Lamoriello didn't listen to
critics who suggested Brodeur should have played -- given the
magnitude of the game for the Islanders and Maple Leafs.
"We have to do what is best for our hockey club," Lamoriello
said. "I don't want to be derogatory, but you can not think any
The Islanders got off to a quick start.
Park gave New York a 1-0 lead at 11:53 of the first, knocking in
Jeff Tambellini's rebound in a goal-mouth scramble. The score
brought loud cheers from the large contingent of Islanders fans on
Park scored again at 7:51 of the third with a wrister from the
high slot that sailed over Clemmensen's shoulder.
John Madden scored twice for the Devils to send the game into
overtime and ultimately, the shootout.
Madden deflected a shot from Jay Pandolfo with 4:13 remaining.
With Clemmensen on the bench for an extra attacker, Madden tied
the score with less than one second remaining. Dubielewicz made a
sprawling save on Madden's initial shot but was helpless as Madden
backhanded his own rebound into the net.
A video review confirmed that the goal was scored before time
"That was probably the toughest thing I've ever had to deal
with," Dubielewicz said. "I just couldn't believe it. I really
couldn't believe that we were that close. I was pretty confident
that we were going to win the game at that point. They just kept
plugging away and they were able to get it."
Both teams had excellent chances to win in the overtime.
Dubielewicz stopped Patrik Elias early in the session while
Clemmensen stopped Satan in the slot 2½ minutes in.
A postseason berth for the Islanders and Maple Leafs then came
down to a shootout.
"If you're an old-school hockey fan, you're probably not too
excited about the way this finished," Devils center Scott Gomez
said. "If you ask a fan who was here today, I'm sure they would
tell you it was incredible."
The loss ended the Devils four-game winning streak. The Patrick
Division winners had no incentive as their playoff position as the
second seed in the conference was already assured. The Devils will
face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the opening round.
The Devils activated defenseman Richard Matvichuk on Sunday from
the long-term injury list. Matvichuk had not played this year
because of a combination of a back injury and the Devils inability
to squeeze him under the salary cap. The Devils cleared roster
(AHL). ... By sitting out, Brodeur fell one game shy of tying Grant
Fuhr's record of 79 appearances by a goalie set in the 1995-96
season with St. Louis. ... The game might have been the Devils
final regular-season contest in the Continental Airlines Arena.
They hope to complete construction of the Prudential Center in
Newark, N.J. for the start of next season.